From the medieval times to the age of renaissance, dance like some other genres of art has spawned a trend in the Nigerian social clime. Dancers have employed all economic arsenals against all odds to transform what hitherto was a mere hobby to a sustainable means of livelihood. Lanre Odukoya spoke to some of these names
It’s more of interest than money,
says Isioma Williams
Isioma Williams, one of the long-standing dancers with office at the National Arts Theatre and the Chairman of Dance Guild of Nigeria, Lagos chapter uncovered the underbelly of the art called ‘dance’ in Nigeria. Williams is also the Rehearsal Director for Akis Production International and he has collaborated with Koffi Koko and artistes on the UK tour of Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel.
“His short takes are the pains and gains of the art. “You cannot find outright appreciation of dance here in Nigeria yet. You can see a Nigerian company bringing Umoja from South Africa; does that mean that we cannot stage something bigger than that here? A lot of money, professionals and perfectionists put that piece together. It was not just the dancers doing the show. Companies think they are helping Nigerians by engaging the homegrown dance companies that is totally wrong.
“Most of these companies use dance reality shows only to advertise their brands and sell some of their products. Is that really what one would call the appreciation of arts? If corporate social responsibilities really make any sense to these organisations why don’t they promote the art without singing it? Of course you and I know that there are different ways to achieve this,” he sorely lamented.
Staying locked up in the practically dormant wing of the theatre especially when jobs are not streaming in may also mean a password to austerity, how does the dance act pay rents, school fees and routine upkeep among other domestic dues? Williams pathetically explained; “I’m just coming from rehearsal of a play which has some songs and dancing, but this is not regular. I’m just one out of several thousands of us. What happens to my other colleagues? It’s by God’s grace most of us are surviving in it. A lot of my colleagues have left dance to do other things.
“This is where I get fulfillment. So, even when I go abroad, I just do what I have to do and return home, I won’t stay there to start washing plates and doing domestic shores for the Whiteman. I had that opportunity but it is not an opportunity but submitting oneself to personal slavery. I’ve got a wife who is also a dancer and we have two kids, it’s really tough but God’s grace has been keeping the family together. Apart from dance performance, which is not regular, my wife has a shop she runs now and sometimes supports the family with the proceeds she gets from there.
“So, when the chips are down for me, she takes care of the family’s finances and when I get some money, I plough it back into her business. I’ve also told you that some of the guys I’ve trained are working abroad already. I have a lot of friends out there, if I’m broke, I’ll just call one or two of them to support me. I’m one of the surviving few and I cannot say the same thing for everyone, you have to be Godly to survive in this industry.
Peter Badejo (Badejo Arts)
Unarguably the dance artist from Nigeria with the most well structured platform for his craft and this is largely due to Western influence. He is one of Nigeria’s foremost choreographers, dancers and African dance specialists. His stay in Britain since 1990 has made a dramatic impact on British arts in general. Peter Badejo is the artistic director of Badejo Arts, which he founded in 1990. He was awarded an OBE in 2001in recognition of his work with and commitment to African people’s dance.
He has appeared in major dramas such as Cambridge University’s Eshu’s Faust and Phylida Lloyd’s productions of Medea and Death and the King’s Horseman. Dance companies throughout Africa, Europe and America where he inaugurated Peter Badejo’s work. Badejo Arts endeavours to develop African dance through its support of emerging choreographers and newcomers to the form as well as through the research, codification and dissemination of Yoruba bata dance technique.
(Imagneto Dance Company)
She’s the owner of Imagneto Dance Company otherwise known as Kaffy, this zippy and zestful lady got her claim to fame when she made it to the Guinness Book of Records. She has been a member of the jury in a couple of dance or music reality shows afterwards and earned more corporate reckoning from MTN Project Fame sponsored the South African telecommunications giant, MTN.
Kaffy has over time become such a quintessential dancer but known more for her hip-hop dance style, especially after her appearance in ‘Roll It’, a musical video from the stable of one of Nigeria’s music heartthrobs, P-Square. She has trained a long list of dancers some of whom have picked up appointments with companies abroad.
A mentor to many girls who desire to coast home after a successful dance career, Kaffy’s portrayal in the Yoruba comic flick, Jenifa has also done more to accentuate her plan to motivate her folk through dance. She’s Nigeria’s most visible dance queen today and recently got married to Joseph after having a boy.
Dayo Liadi (Ijo Dee)
Eclectic and unassuming dancer, Dayo Liadi became a mega dance star after his dance performance in Olori Oko, the music video of gospel group Infinity. He has been a professional dancer long before then nevertheless. He owns Ijo Dee, a dance group with its office in the Artists’ Village of the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. He is also the founder of TRUFESTA International Dance Festival. The itinerant dancer has been to over 60 countries of the world with his craft.
Dayo was also a judge in the annual Spirit of David’s ‘Celebrity Takes 2’ as he prides with several laurels in his kitty. He has also been a jurist in a few reality shows as well as the dance instructor to many groups home and abroad. He’s at present arguably the most travelled dancer in this part of the world. So accomplished is this artist that he once boasted that dance for him has gone beyond appearing in music videos. He was out of the country when THISDAY visited his office during the week.
This GOND award winner and cultural dance veteran has also trained a retinue of professional dancers here and abroad. He’s a major in traditional dance and has been a dance instructor in the Maltina Dance All TV series for the third time now and a dance instructor in Project Fame West Africa2. According to him, “formerly we used to dance for N10, 000 but now, we get shows that pays as much as tens of millions of naira for a particular project.
“And you don’t get that kind of money from one source because you have the freedom of doing so many jobs in a month especially if you’re up there working with people who matter in Corporate Nigeria. Putting food on the table may not mean what you earn per say, some people may not earn up to millions but they still live comfortably off dance. The stage we are now is good for the industry even though I cannot say the same for the up-coming dancers,” he said.
(Corporate Dance World)
This graduate of Microbiology from the University of Ibadan is an artistic director, choreographer/dancer and the dance director for Corporate Dance World, Nigeria’s foremost dance agency. He’s the President of Dance Foundation; Nigeria’s only dance training foundation today. His words read in part; “Dance has become more relevant to the society because it is becoming more popular and that is what is giving the art its strength.
I know that ten years ago it wasn’t this popular but it is taking a precise form and shape because the dance community has a stronger foundation to stand and grow with. While the structure is fortified, more dancers feel safe to call it a profession rather than a hobby because the world respects whatever is structured. I’m a versatile dancer who tries not to be named as an expert in one style of dance. I know we have hip-hop dancers, traditional dancers, Latin and ballroom dancers, contemporary dancers and so on”